We couldn’t praise Ronaldo enough this year. He was been incredible. I struggle to think of the last time a player had such an obvious effect on our season. A goals total of 42 in 48 games is phenomenal, particularly from a player who has spent much of the season on the right wing.
I have strong memories of debates circling message boards of who was the greater player, Ronaldo or Reyes. More recently, just in December, people swore blind that Kaka was a much better player and was deservedly placed above him in European and World Player of the Year. Now though, there can’t be any doubt. Measure him against anyone and nobody comes close to Ronaldo 07-08.
However, I’m sure I’m not the only one entirely bored with the constant rumours linking him with Real Madrid and his failure to reassure the club and fans that he is staying. So are we bothered if he goes this summer?
No one player is bigger than this club. United lives by this saying and Sir Alex Ferguson has enforced this heavily. After his initial drive of shifting the booze culture, selling on the likes of Paul McGrath and Norman Whiteside, he got rid of important names like Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis, Paul Ince, Dwight Yorke, David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy, to name a few. The decisions to bench certain players and sell them on certainly raised an eye-brow or two, but it has always been for the greater good of United. If Fergie needed to cut Ronaldo loose to, he would, and we wouldn’t look back.
There have been claims United are a “one-man team” which I find entirely ludicrous. No doubt, Ronaldo has been our best player this season, as well as the best player in the league, but does that make us solely reliant on him?
It is interesting to note that within the top 11 scorers in the league this season, United have three players, which is three more than Chelsea, and two more than Arsenal or Liverpool. It is important to mention that Wayne Rooney has been missing for close to a third of all Premiership games this season due to injury, yet still finds his place as the highest scoring Englishman in the league. United scored 15 more goals than Chelsea last season and this is with Rooney and Tevez, neither of whom can proclaim to be out and out strikers, as our only front men, following the season long injury for Saha. Imagine our attack when we do buy that coveted striker in the summer.
Let’s not overlook what can be easy to forget about either, our defence. Conceding just 22 goals this season, never more than 2 goals a game, United had the strongest defensive record in the league. This is with our first choice right back out of action all season and Nemanja Vidic suffering everything from stitches in the mouth to an infect stomach!
Yet still, United are a one man team?
At the close of last season, we could all laugh at the speculation of where the goals would come from after Ruud van Nistelrooy left. We scored 11 more goals in the 06-07 season than we did in Ruud’s last season at the club, with Ronaldo and Rooney finished 3rd and 4th highest scorers respectively. Nobody had accounted for the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would return from injury and score 7 league goals in his 16 league appearances before the title was won (7 of them from the start), or that an “ageing” Paul Scholes and “bought for promotion in the East” Ji-Sung Park would contribute 11 league goals between them. We certainly didn’t have a “past it” Ryan Giggs and “versatile” John O’Shea bagging 4 league goals each.
Delving deeper, we couldn’t have been written off more clearly than at the start of the 95-96 season, on the back of selling Hughes, Kanchelskis and Ince. The team of “kids” that won the Double that season were told they wouldn’t win a thing, eh Alan YSB Hansen.
Ferguson was apparently off his rocker selling on superstar David Beckham and bringing some lightweight Portuguese teenager in to fill his boots. He was mad to let his relationship with our leader, Roy Keane, to disintegrate in to such a state that he walked out on us. It makes me wonder if people had seen the fire in Gary Neville’s belly as he proudly held our badge up to the travelling dippers just months before. Did people honestly think Roy Keane should have stayed beyond the summer, given his knackered hips and loss of pace? And did they honestly think that Neville’s love for this club couldn’t be the driving force Keane’s passion for winning had once provided us with?
Ferguson will move on who he needs to move on. If Ronaldo is tempted too heavily by Real Madrid this summer, then it is without doubt time he went. I know I won’t be alone when no tears are shed. He is a great player, the best at the moment, and I am ever so pleased he had the season he did. For the sake of our success, and for being able to stick two fingers up at all those ABU, England loving mugs. How it must pain them, those fans who boo him every week and cheer when their player kicks him in to the stands, to have no option but to praise him. I love it. But not enough for me to feel the slightest inclination of wanting to cling on to a player who wants out. If he wants to leave, then good luck to him. But Beckham isn’t the only player who, after telling him not to leave this week, can inform him that usually the only way is down after leaving us.
So just like when Eric Cantona told us au revoir, Roy Keane told us to shove it up our bollocks (or so I imagine), RvN gave his sob story of the ordeal at being put on the bench one or twice, United will come back fighting next season. We won the Treble just two years after the magical Cantona left us and the European Cup less than three years after Keane walked out of the door. Two years after Ruud left, we have the highest scoring player in the Premiership and the Champions League. Do people honestly believe that Ronaldo leaving would leave us in a worse state than any other great player who left?
Despite missing almost a third of the season, there are only two more players in the league who have assisted more goals than him. If Ronaldo is to leave, next season, he will just be providing the goals for someone else.
People use the weak “if you took Ronaldo’s goals away from United, where would they be?” argument as proof that he is vital to our success. Equally then, where would Liverpool be without Torres’ goals? Arsenal without Adebayor’s? The fact of the matter is, those players are taking up places and being presented with opportunities to score that other players could take if they were on the field.
Teddy Sheringham was our highest scorer at the end of the 2001 season, bagging 15 goals and finishing the 6th highest scorer in the league. He left at the end of that season and what happened? The following season we had two strikers in the top six, Ruud scoring 22 and Solskjaer scoring 15. Ruud scored 21 goals for us at the end of the 2006 season before leaving for Real and what happened? Ronaldo scored 17, Rooney scored 14, and we won the league.
I am not alone in being disgruntled with Ronaldo’s poor attitude, cockteasing Real Madrid and leaving his own fans having to nervously wait over news. Either you want to be a United player or you don’t, it is not difficult. If there’s any grey area then it’s time to back your bags.
We’ve always known Ronaldo was going to leave for Spain one day, it just wasn’t expected to come quite so soon in his career. If he is to stay here for another season, then that is fine. He’ll want more medals, more glory and more praise before he leaves the Premiership, and performing well for United will earn him all of those things. But we shouldn’t have to endure a whole summer of this, and if that is his plan, he should leave now.
So, Ronaldo, what’s it going to be?
To mark the anniversary of United winning the Treble with a team that had academy products at the core, Made in Manchester is available for just £3 for today only. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Beset to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total.